Norfolk, VA Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Motorcycle riders in Norfolk undergo more training and testing than drivers of other types of motor vehicles, including even some commercial trucks. So, while the classic biker reputation for toughness and tenacity may be based in fact, the old-fashioned reputation for lawlessness is often far from the truth. Even when they follow the rules of the road and exercise caution, though, motorcycle riders are vulnerable to accidents that can result in severe injuries. Often, the injuries to motorcyclists are caused by car drivers not seeing the rider and through no fault of the bike operator.
If you suffer injury in a motorcycle crash that someone else caused, you should speak to a Norfolk motorcycle accident lawyer and learn the steps you should be taking to protect your rights, including your right to compensation. In addition to providing personalized advice about your case, a dedicated personal injury attorney from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers could also help with collecting evidence to build the best possible case for recovery.
How Do Motorcycle Accident Cases Differ from Other Vehicle Collisions?
While many attorneys in Norfolk handle motorcycle accident cases, not all of them are familiar with the factors that make motorcycle accident cases unique. To begin with, the vehicles themselves are different from others on the road.
Because riders must balance their weight to remain upright, unusual conditions on the roads may pose hazards to motorcyclists while having little effect on the operation of cars, trucks and buses. Accordingly, motorcyclists may be at greater risk of experiencing single-vehicle accidents than vehicles that rest on four or more wheels.
In addition, certain unique aspects of motorcycle riding subject riders to different laws than those that apply to other vehicles. For instance, Virginia Code §46.2-833 allows motorcycle riders to drive through a steady red light at an intersection if they have waited through two full light cycles without receiving a green light. Another provision in Va. Code §46.2-857 allows motorcycles to travel two abreast in a single lane of traffic, although this is prohibited for other vehicles.
The Severity of Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Finally, motorcycle riders lack the protection afforded by the frames and designs of other vehicles, so motorcycle accidents may result in much more serious injuries than those suffered by drivers or passengers of other vehicles. All these factors underscore the importance of seeking help from an experienced Norfolk motorcycle accident lawyer that know how to handle all the special elements of motorcycle accident cases.
How Does Contributory Negligence Apply to Motorcycle Wreck Cases?
In many motorcycle accident cases, an injured rider may be awarded compensation to cover damages suffered in an accident if they can show the negligence of another driver created a dangerous condition on the road which caused the crash. However, the responsible party in your case may try to raise the contributory negligence rule as a defense to their liability.
This rule, which applies in Virginia, prohibits you from recovering damages if your own negligence contributed to the cause of an accident. However, it can be difficult to prove exactly what factors contributed to the legal causation of an accident in Norfolk without a motorcycle accident lawyer’s help.
For instance, Va. Code §46.2-910 specifies that although motorcycle riders and passengers are required to wear helmets and have gear to protect the face, a failure to have such equipment will “not constitute negligence per se in any civil proceeding.” So, while some violations of law may be treated as negligence, not all violations or faults will necessarily be admissible in court to show negligence.
How Should I Handle the Insurance Company Following my Accident?
After a motorcycle accident, it is important to promptly speak with an experienced personal injury before talking to the insurance company. It is tempting to immediately reach out to the at-fault driver’s car insurance company because you want your motorcycle fixed and your medical bills paid. Here is why you should take the extra time to do a free consultation with a lawyer.
With the goal of denying your payment, the car or motorcycle insurance company will do the following when you talk to them after the accident:
- Request all your background information (to find information to use against you)
- Interview you about your injuries (to box you in)
- Interview you about the accident (looking for a reason to blame you)
As soon as you contact the car or motorcycle insurance company, it will open a claim. The insurance company will immediately start investigating the accident and look for a reason to get rid of you.
The claims adjuster for the insurance company will request your biographical and background information (name, address, date of birth, and social security number). The adjuster uses this information to search you in a database it shares with other insurance companies to determine if you have been in other accidents with injuries in the past. They are looking for something to use against you.
The insurance adjuster will then ask about your injuries. The adjuster does this to box you in. For example, if you are talking to an adjuster moments after an accident before the excited and adrenaline wear off you may feel fine. However, it isn’t unusual to start feeling your injuries until the day after the accident.
If you already told the adjuster you were not injured it will use your prior statement against you. Another common issue is that immediately after the accident only your back hurts, but subsequently you notice pain elsewhere. The car insurance company will argue that you only mentioned your back pain initially. You must take the time to understand the full extent of your injuries before discussing them with any insurance company.
The insurance claims adjuster will also interview you about how the accident happened. These interviews are usually recorded. The insurance company is looking for an opportunity to argue that you share some fault in causing the accident. In Virginia, if you share a mere 1% fault in causing the accident you get nothing. This is true even if the other driver was 99% at-fault and even if the police officer determined the other driver caused the accident. The insurance company is not above using your casual language or a misstatement as a reason to deny you payment. For example, it is not unusual for someone to say “he came out of nowhere!” Of course, someone doesn’t typically mean it literally, but an insurance company will argue that you did not keep a proper lookout or you would have seen him before the accident. An insurance company will twist this simply statement into an argument that you shared fault and should get nothing after an accident.
You should also know that an insurance company may have already talked to their driver and gotten their version of events. Sometimes the other driver lies. Sometimes the other driver does the right thing and tells the truth.
After the car insurance company and its adjuster talks to you it will continue its investigation (again, looking for a reason to deny you payment). Following the investigation, and if the insurance company can’t find a reason to blame you for the accident, it is common for them to make you a quick lowball offer. The conversation usually sounds something like this: “We are so sorry about what happened to you. We accept responsibility and want to make this right. What we are prepared to do pay for your emergency room bill and also pay you a couple hundred dollars for your pain and trouble. We’re going to send you a release. If you will just sign and return it we will mail you the check.”
The point of this small but quick money offer is to get rid of you and limit their exposure. When you sign the release you are agreeing to close your personal injury case forever. What if you are injured worse than originally expected? What if it turns out your sore back doesn’t get better in a few days and you actually have a disc injury that will require months of therapy or even surgery? If you have released all claims under the law you will not be allowed to reopen the case. It is critical that you fully understand the extent of your injuries before entering into any settlement agreement with a car or motorcycle insurance company.
A skilled Norfolk lawyer could provide vigilant representation for an injured motorcyclist’s crash case and handle all communication with the insurance company on their behalf. Additionally, our attorneys could help an injured motorcyclist avoid hidden pitfalls in dealing with the insurance company that could otherwise hurt their claim and fight for a fair settlement.
Talking to a Norfolk Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to recover compensation for many different consequences of a motorcycle accident if you were a rider or passenger injured in that accident. These may include monetary losses such as equipment damage, medical bills, and lost income from work. Compensation may also be available for pain, suffering and other harms.
To preserve your ability to pursue compensation through either an insurance claim or a lawsuit, it is important to acquire evidence and avoid making statements or taking actions that could compromise your case. A Norfolk motorcycle accident lawyer could provide valuable advice and assistance right from the start, and one from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers could also advocate on your behalf at all stages of your case. Call us today to learn more if you were hurt on your motorcycle.